Remarkable People, Places and Events – Muhammad Ali

Since the death of boxing great Muhammad Ali on June 3rd, much has been said about him, his personality, and boxing career. Below are additional information according to about the self-titled World’s Greatest.

1. He was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky, United States.

2. As a 12 year old, Ali started working with Joe Martin, a police officer and boxing trainer, to learn how to spar, and soon began his boxing career.

3. His first amateur bout was in 1954, which he won by a split decision. Ali went on to win the 1956 Golden Gloves tournament for novices in the light heavyweight class. In 1959, he won the National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions, as well as the Amateur Athletic Union’s national title for the light heavyweight division.

4. Ali won a spot on the U.S. Olympic boxing team, and competed at the 1960 Summer Olympic Games in Rome, Italy.  After winning his first three bouts, Ali defeated Zbigniew Pietrzkowski of Poland to win the light heavyweight Olympic gold medal.

5. In 1963,  Ali took out British heavyweight champion Henry Cooper, and then knocked out Sonny Liston in 1964 to become the heavyweight champion of the world.

6. He joined the black Muslim group, the Nation of Islam in 1964. At first he called himself Cassius X before settling on the name Muhammad Ali upon his conversion to Islam.

7. In 1967, he was drafted into the military to fight in the Vietnam War but refused to serve on the grounds that he was a practicing Muslim minister with religious beliefs that prevented him from fighting. On this ground, he was arrested and stripped of his world title and boxing license.

8. His appeal to be treated as a conscientious objector was denied, as he was found guilty of violating Selective Service laws and sentenced to five years in prison in June 1967.  He remained free though, while appealing his conviction.  The U.S. Supreme Court eventually overturned the conviction in June 1971.

9. Later in 1971, Ali took on Joe Frazier in what has been called the Fight of the Century. Frazier and Ali went toe-to-toe for 14 rounds before Frazier dropped Ali with a vicious left hook in the 15th round. Ali recovered quickly, but the judges awarded the decision to Frazier, handing Ali his first professional loss after 31 wins. 

10. In 1974,  Ali fought against undefeated heavyweight champion George Foreman. Billed as the Rumble in the Jungle, the bout was held in Kinshasa, Zaire (now known as Democratic Republic of the Congo). Ali was seen as the underdog in the fight, but he stunned his opponent with an eighth-round knockout to reclaim the heavyweight title.

11. In 1975, Ali and Frazier fought again at a rematch in Quezon City, Philippines. Dubbed the Thrilla in Manila. Here, Frazier’s trainer threw in the towel after the 14th round, giving the hard-fought victory to Ali.

12. In February 1978, Ali lost his title to Leon Spinks, Ali would later defeat him in a September rematch, becoming the first boxer to win the heavyweight championship three times.

13. He would lose to Larry Holmes in 1980, and finally to Trevor Berbick in 1981, after which the boxing great retired from the sport.

14. In 1984, he announced that he had Parkinson’s disease –  a degenerative neurological condition. He was involved in raising funds for many charity organisations, and in 1996,  lit the Olympic cauldron at the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, United States.

15. In 1998, he was chosen to be a United Nations Messenger of Peace because of his work in developing nations. And in 2005, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from US President George W. Bush.

16. On the opening of the Muhammad Ali Centre in his hometown of Louisville, in 2005, he said:

I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given. Many fans wanted to build a museum to acknowledge my achievements. I wanted more than a building to house my memorabilia. I wanted a place that would inspire people to be the best that they could be at whatever they chose to do, and to encourage them to be respectful of one another.

17. The revered athlete passed away on the evening of June 3, 2016, due to respiratory complications in Phoenix, Arizona.

18. Ali is survived by his fourth wife, Yolanda Williams, to whom he had been married since 1986. Together, they have one son, Asaad, while Ali had several children from previous relationships, including daughter Laila Ali, who followed in his footsteps by becoming a champion boxer.

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